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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I've been evaluating projectors to do double duty for work and for my home theater.

I thought you might be interested in how the "shootout" went with the four

projectors I evaluated:
  • NEC LT 156 (1200 lumens, 400:1 contrast, XGA, LCD, 4.9 pounds)
  • Panasonic PT-L711U (1400 lumens, 300:1 contrast, XGA, LCD, 8.4 pounds)
  • Epson PowerLite 810p (2000 lumens, 400:1 contrast, XGA, LCD, 9.3 pounds)
  • InFocus LP530 (2000 lumens, 400:1 contrast, XGA, DLP, 5.7 pounds)


First, I'd like to thank Ryan Law of CCS Presentation Systems in San Jose, California (408-573-6248) for providing the projectors for this shootout. Ryan was extremely helpful in setting things up so that I could do this shootout quickly and efficiently.


I decided to evaluate the following criteria for each projector:

  1. Brightness and image quality: how bright the image appears and the image

    characteristics such as color accuracy and saturation, how it handles a spreadsheet

    with lots of numbers, and screen door and rainbows. I created an Excel spreadsheet

    with solid blocks of colors (black, navy, bright blue, light blue, white, and red) to

    focus on solid color appearance. I created another spreadsheet with lots of numbers.

    I used The Matrix DVD (chapter 2) and Toy Story (chapter 4) to evaluate the image

    for movies.
  2. Contrast and black level: I looked at the color spreadsheet to see

    if the projector showed the black block as black or a gray. I used The Matrix to look

    for details in dark/black areas and to distinguish between the various blacks. I used

    Toy Story to look at contrast and colors too.
  3. Physical characteristics: I evaluated fan noise at each light level (some

    projectors had adjustable lumen output), light leaks, size, and image size (see the

    Evaluation Setup, this is important for presentations in both large and small

    conference rooms).
  4. Specs and features: I didn't use tools to measure the specs, instead this is a

    paper evaluation of the specs. I'll mention interesting and useful features here.[/list=a]


    I decided to come up with a simple rating system for each of the above criteria just

    for grins and to speed comparisons between projectors. So, I chose the http://www.avsforum.com/ubb/biggrin.gif system: 1

    is barely acceptable while 5 out of this world. Of course, there are ratings between

    these extremes. For things I encountered that were really bad, I rated them a http://www.avsforum.com/ubb/frown.gif .

    Evaluation Setup


    Ryan set up the four projectors in a small conference room (about 10' x 10') with

    daylight fluorescent lights (so they were either on or off). The daylight fluorescents

    don't have a white light spectrum. They tend to be warmer. Their color spectrum did

    have a major impact on the images. The projectors were on the conference table,

    which we moved to one side of the room to get about 6' between the projectors and

    the matte white Da-Lite portable screen (1.0 gain). Ryan brought a 75 Watt

    incandescent floor lamp into the room so that we evaluate the projectors with the

    daylight fluorescent lights on and off (dark room with the door closed) as well as

    with the incandescent light on.


    I brought a laptop with an XGA analog monitor output to connect to the projector

    being evaluated. I also brought a Panasonic RP-91 to play DVDs and the Matrix and

    Toy Story DVDs.


    We didn't have component video cables, so we had to use an S-video cable to

    connect the DVD player to the projectors. This did have the benefit of making it

    possible to check out the line doubler in some of the projectors.


    Ryan also provided a computer monitor splitter (an Extron amplified one) so that I

    could compare the images from two projectors directly (the splitter was not used for

    individual projector evaluation).


    All projectors had a new lamp (less than 50 hours) and were set at their defaults,

    unless noted in the evaluation. Unfortunately, there was not enough time to calibrate

    each projector. I had only 2.5 hours for the entire shootout.

    NEC LT156 2x http://www.avsforum.com/ubb/biggrin.gif (overall)


    I started with this projector because it has the lowest lumens spec. I didn't want to

    get blinded by the bright projectors before I saw this "faint" 1200 lumen guy do

    job.

    Brightness and image quality:


    At 6 feet from the screen (the same distance for all projectors) the image was about

    42" (4x3 diagonal), the smallest in the shootout, which should give it a ft-lambert

    advantage. For presentations, with the fluorescent lights on, the colors were washed

    out and the image looked dull and had low contrast. The image was bright enough

    so that the numbers in the spreadsheet torture test could be read but I had to strain

    my eyes a bit to do so. With the incandescent light on, the colors improved

    considerably. They were more saturated and accurate but lacked any real punch. The

    number spreadsheet was easier to read. In the dark, the colors improved more and so

    did the readability on the number spreadsheet. Even in the dark, though, I didn't have

    any emotions about what I was seeing. I know, it may seem weird to feel emotions

    about a spreadsheet full of numbers and color blocks, but when making a

    presentation you want your audience not to be turned off by the technology and

    would rather have them notice how much better your presentation looks than others

    (particularly in a sales situation). The LT156 just didn't have that punch.


    On the video side, forget this projector with fluorescent lights. With a 75W

    incandescent light it was like watching video with a veil on (OK, I've never done that

    but I could imagine what that would look like). There was a slight screendoor effect

    at 8' from the screen, but it wasn't tough to ignore it.

    Contrast and black level:


    With the fluorescents on the contrast and black level were unacceptable. The

    incandescent light made things better. The black block in the spreadsheet was a

    charcoal gray, definitely not black. In the dark, the black block turned to a slightly

    darker charcoal gray.


    For The Matrix, at the start of chapter 2, the black leather suite on the woman was

    not shiny, which it should be. The shadows were dark gray without any details. I was

    so unimpressed that I didn't bother to put on Toy Story.

    Physical characteristics:


    This was the smallest and lightest projector in the shootout. The fan was quite. It

    would be easy to have a conversation with the the LT156 on the conference table.

    Specs and features:


    The LT156 supports up to 550 TV lines. With a bulb life of 1,000 hours, this

    projector is more expensive to run than most, including some of the much brighter

    ones in this shootout. It only has a 0.5W mono audio system.

    Overall:


    I'd be concerned about taking this projector into a conference room like the one in

    this shootout (the lights had to be either on or off and daylight fluorescents). The

    video quality was acceptable but nothing that would make you stop and say "wow!"


    Panasonic PT-L711U 4x http://www.avsforum.com/ubb/biggrin.gif (overall)


    I had really wanted to test the brand new version of this projector, the 711XU. It

    outputs 1600 lumens, has 400:1 contrast, and a 4000 hour lamp life in economy

    mode (which is 1200 to 1300 lumens) and 2000 hours in normal mode.

    Unfortunately, they have just started shipping and Ryan didn't have a demo unit

    available.


    When I started the 711U evaluation I used the splitter to get an idea of how 1400

    lumens compared to 1200 lumens. Wow, was I surprised! It was the difference

    between a 25W and a 100W bulb! Next to the Panasonic, the spreadsheet on NEC

    LT156 looked very veiled and yellow. The 711U image seemed to jump off the

    screen. I can't believe that I was seeing a 200 lumen difference, especially

    considering that the LT156 image was much smaller. I suspect that Panasonic may

    be specing the brightness closer to the end of the bulb life or, at least, understating

    the brightness.

    Brightness and image quality:


    The 711U's very short-throw (wide angle) lens let it put up about a 60" image from

    6'. That makes quite an impression in a small conference room, helping your

    audience get emotionally involved and impressed by your presentation.


    The color spreadsheet blew me away compared to the LT156. The white background

    was bright and very white. The LT156 looked very yellow and dull by comparison.

    Each colored block seemed to jump off the screen. All of the colors were rich and

    very saturated. The black block was black even compared to a black case I held next

    to it. The number-loaded spreadsheet looked very good, although there was an

    edge outline around the row and column headings. I was able to eliminate the outline

    by adjusting the projector. The large image combined with the great colors and fine

    detail will make it possible for your audience to really get involved with your

    presentation (read: it will help you sell, if that's what your presentation is about and

    what presentation isn't about selling in some way).


    The daylight fluorescents played havoc with the colors in the spreadsheet. The

    various blue blocks on the spreadsheet turned purplish. With the incandescent light

    on, the rich, saturated, accurate colors returned.


    There was a slight screen door at 8'. I expect that it would disappear at 10' to 12'. It was not as pronounced as that of the LT156.


    The video on the 711U was definitely the most outstanding in the shootout. On my

    chapter 2 Matrix test, the black leather suit shined as it should. At first the skin tones

    and lighter areas had green tint to them. It was simple to adjust the color tint to get

    natural skin tones and all of the other colors locked-in to what they should be. There

    was detail in the shadows that was not visible in any other projector in this shootout.

    The 711U has a line doubler in it (Panasonic calls it a "Digital Cinema Reality

    circuit"). It worked extremely well. I couldn't see any motion artifacts during the

    chase across the rooftops in The Matrix.


    In the Toy Story test (the start of chapter 4), I paid particular attention to the red top

    of the Lincoln Log tube right at the start of the chapter. It was rock solid red. All of

    the colors were rich and well saturated. Again, the line doubler worked great. The

    images reminded me of those that I saw in Toy Story 2 projected with a 3-chip DLP

    in a movie theater.


    The 711U has two light levels: 1400 lumens and, I think about 1100 lumens. The

    above evaluation was at the high light level. At the low level, which Panasonic calls

    economy, everything was pretty much the same, just less bright. In a dark room, the

    low light level would be great. That's important because of the increased lamp life.

    Contrast and black level:


    I can't believe that the 711U has only a 300:1 contrast ratio. Compared to the other

    projectors in this shootout, all of which had a 400:1 contrast ratio, it offered much

    better contrast and blacks. As I said above, it had what appeared to me to be a true

    black. The 711U showed much more shadow detail in The Matrix than any other

    projector. With the 711U it was easy to see the different types of blacks in The

    Matrix - shiny leather, black wool, black cotton, shadows, etc.

    Physical characteristics:


    So this projector is not perfect. It's biggest drawback is the fan noise at the normal

    light level. It would be anoying to have a discussion across a conference room table

    with the 711U on it. The fan is so noisy in normal mode I suspect you'd want to have

    a hushbox around it even mounted on a ceiling. But I think the picture is probably

    worth it. On the other hand, in economy mode this was one of the quietest projectors

    in the shootout.


    This is one of the larger and heavier projectors evaluated. But it's still small enough

    To cart around an airport or put in an overhead bin on an airplane.

    Specs and features:


    One of the surprise specs was that the 711U supports 760 TV lines. All of the other

    projectors handle 550 TV lines. This difference really seemed to show up in the

    image detail of the 711U. Two light levels, great line doubler, bright, short-throw

    lens, and more. What's not to like!

    Overall:


    The 711U offers a great value for the price (street price is under $4,000). Panasonic

    really shows its experience with TV with the 711U. It's a shame they don't do a good

    job marketing this winner of a projector. I expect the new 711XU would be even

    better.


    Epson PowerLite 810p 4x http://www.avsforum.com/ubb/biggrin.gif (for presentations) 1x http://www.avsforum.com/ubb/biggrin.gif (for video)


    The 810p is a mixed bag - great for presentations and poor for video. This is one of

    the few projectors that supports the new sRGB standard (the "s" stands for standard).

    The others come from Mitsubishi; for example, the X80 supports sRGB.


    I used the splitter to compare the 711U to the 810p for presentations. It was a close

    call as to which was brighter. The 810p also has a short-throw lens so it too

    projected about a 60" image. Considering image size is important when comparing

    projectors because it takes more lumens to obtain the same amount of reflected light

    with a larger image.

    Brightness and image quality:


    The 810p has six different modes: sRGB, normal, meeting, theater, and amusement.

    The sRGB is supposed to give the same colors as you see on your sRGB computer

    monitor and sRGB printer. (See the Mitsubishi Web site for a good description of

    sRGB). I tested presentations using sRGB, normal, and meeting modes. The meeting

    mode was my least favorite: the white was off-white (especially compared to the

    711U) and the rest of the colors were slightly veiled. Normal mode was the brightest

    and had good color saturation. The colors looked the richest in sRGB mode. The

    number spreadsheet was very well defined and easy to read in all modes. The sRGB

    mode was my favorite for presentations.


    The fluorescent lights had much less of an impact on the 810 than the other

    projectors in the shootout. I suspect it was because of the 2000 lumens that it puts

    out. The colors remained fairly true under the fluorescents. The incandescent light

    had no impact on the image quality.


    The video is a real loser in the 810p. There is no built-in line doubler. I saw a good

    deal of video noise in the image and everything was the same for this test-- the same

    S-video cable in the same position as for all of the other projectors. The video noise

    was so annoying that I didn't bother to do a full evaluation. I did look at enough of

    the Matrix to see that there was no detail in the shadows and the blacks were various

    shades of gray and charcoal gray. I did this test with in theater mode in the dark.

    Contrast and black level:


    The sRGB colors were good except that black turns out to be a dark charcoal gray.

    In the other modes the colors and black levels weren't as saturated. Although the

    differences could be one of color temperature.

    Physical characteristics:


    The 810p was the heaviest projector in the shootout. It's fan was quieter than the

    711U's but still would be difficult to talk over, if it were on a conference table.

    Specs and features:


    The 810p has a 5W stereo audio system, which should be good for presentations. It

    has only 550 TV lines but the video noise makes this projector a silly choice for

    video. It does have two computer inputs.

    Overall:


    Not to be confused with an ex-fighter's grilling machine, the Epson PowerLite 810p

    makes a mean presentation machine. For video, it's the weenie on the grill.


    InFocus LP530 1x http://www.avsforum.com/ubb/frown.gif (overall for presentations) 3x http://www.avsforum.com/ubb/biggrin.gif (for video)


    The LP530 was the only DLP in the shootout. I was excited to get a look at the

    LP530 because I hadn't seen a DLP projector before. This is a bright, lightweight

    projector that I thought could be a perfect fit for my needs. But I was quickly

    disappointed. We couldn't get the LP530 to sync up with my laptop's monitor output.

    None of the other projectors had a problem. The LP530 kept thinking my laptop was

    putting out a 640x480 signal when it was actually 1024x768. The little I saw of my

    spreadsheets looked good, although I wouldn't say they looked better than the 810p.

    So, I couldn't evaluate the presentation performance to any significant extent.

    Brightness and image quality:


    The LP530 is bright and the image is smooth. I couldn't see any DLP rainbows. The

    LP530 threw about a 48" image. There was not much shadow detail in the Matrix.

    The image had more of a TV quality to it rather than a film quality. Think of this as

    a soap opera shot on video tape versus a move shot on film. The LP530 seemed to

    have lower contrast than the 711U.


    The LP530 has a Faroujda DCDi line doubler built in. It seemed to work great for

    The Matrix. There were no artifacts in the chase across the rooftops. It was a

    different story with Toy Story (sorry for the pun). The red top on the Lincoln Log

    tube at the start of chapter 4 combed pretty badly. This had to be a problem with the

    LP530 because that problem didn't show up with the 711U. Also, the greens in Toy

    Story were much brighter green than the other projectors; the greens had an unreal

    day-glow character to them.


    The biggest problem with the LP530 showing DVDs was the border around the

    image. For a widescreen image there was a two-toned border on all sides. It was a

    charcoal gray inner border and a light gray outer border. This was quite anoying for

    The Matrix. I suppose that good masking would greatly reduce or eliminate this

    problem. But if you don't mask the screen, this border effect is much more annoying

    than the top and bottom bars on a direct-view TV showing a widescreen image.

    Contrast and black level:


    The blacks for the LP530 weren't as true as those in the 711U. Colors were rich and

    saturated. In a sense the TV-like image did create a slight feeling of "you are there,"

    which some may see as more involving.

    Physical characteristics:


    There was lots of light leaking from the front faceplate. The fan noise at high power

    was annoying. Fortunately, the LP530 has a low power mode and the fan noise is

    acceptable in that mode. The LP530's enclosure is nice looking. It's lightweight for

    such a bright projector.

    Specs and features:


    The LP530 needs a special cable to connect video and computers to it. I suspect that

    the cable contributed to the computer syncing problem. You can't use component

    video without an add-on module, which is supposed to ship in the next couple of

    weeks. The LP530 has a 3W stereo audio system that should provide reasonable

    sound for a conference room.

    Overall:


    The LP530 shoots itself in the foot with light leaks from the front panel and around

    the DMM (which creates the border problem). InFocus could improve the LP530's

    video significantly by plugging the leaks. As for presentations, not being able to

    sync with an XGA computer is a big deal. I expect that the problem could be caused

    by the unit being from an early production run, the special cable or a problem with

    instructions on how to sync an XGA computer (Ryan did RTFM and try what it said

    but the LP530 still wouldn't sync).


    Overall Shootout Winner


    If I had to buy one today (and I almost do), I'd go with the Panasonic 711U. It did

    the most things well and had the best overall image.


    I'd still like to see the 711XU and compare it to the Mitsubishi X80.


    I hope you find the shootout informative.


    Honcho



    [This message has been edited by honcho (edited 09-08-2001).]


    [This message has been edited by honcho (edited 09-09-2001).]


    [This message has been edited by honcho (edited 09-09-2001).]


    [This message has been edited by honcho (edited 09-09-2001).]
 

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honcho,

Thanks for a very thorough review!

I haven't seen any of the PJs you reviewed. I have seen several other models from each company under varying circumstances (except NEC, which I've only seen at shows). One thing that you found which concerns me is the synching problem on the In Focus. I've seen this on the 330 and 350,and was hoping they fixed it. The other is the light leakage. I got an early 350 (before they "fixed" it) and I was hoping they wouldn't make that mistake again.



------------------

Steve
 

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Hi Honcho, I was just curious if you did any kind of video calibration before your evaluation or if this was basically an "out of the box" evaluation. Thanks for the review.
 

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Hi Honcho,

Martix movie has a green tint to simulate when the characters were in the Matrix vs the real world.


clopez
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Pham,


I didn't have the time to do any video calibration, even though I wanted to. If it took 15 minutes to calibrate one projector (which would have been fast), I would have spent at least an hour just calibrating. I expect that each of the projectors would have done better but the differences would have been about the same. The most obvious incorrect setting for the "out of box" settings was with the Panasonic 711U. It was very easy to correct the skin tones and then all other colors fell into place.


Honcho
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
clopez,


I just checked out chapter 2 of the Matrix on my direct view TV. It does not have a green cast to it. The skin tones are right on. You may be talking about other parts of the movie or your projector needs calibration. The image did have more shadow detail than any of the projectors I reviewed. I do expect that calibration would have improved the details in the shadows.


Honcho
 

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Quote:
Originally posted by honcho:
One of the surprise specs was that the 711U supports 760 TV lines. All of the other

projectors handle 550 TV lines. This difference really seemed to show up in the

image detail of the 711U.
Can you tell us a bit more about how 760 TV lines is better than 550 TV-lines? And how you can see it?

Using s-video (or even component) out from DVD player you cannot get more than 540 TV lines out.

 

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Thanks honcho, this should be promoted by the forum administrator as a must. Simple words, clear results.

Leads to 2 remarks:

- clear winner is a projector that is nearly never mentioned in this forum. BTW, the only other mention is in Projectorcentral.com by an user who wonders why no expert took the time to really review it. Are we all only marketing relay? A lot of other brands are never mentionned: is there other hidden jewels?

- validity of specs: is there anywhere in this forum some real objective measurement of the value provided by the manufacturer? I have read several times that you could not really make the difference between 1000 and 1200 (logarithmic scale of our retina). May be this is related to MLA technology, but nobody seems to give a lot of importance to it in this forum.

I have read somewhere that another effect of MLAS is to decrease the screendoor effect. You do not mention it in your comparison. Are all the four projectors equivalent in this respect?


I was nearly ready to buy a Pan711U (very small choice on the Saudi market, but this one is available). Two things were stopping me: lack of reference by real users and the price difference (5200 US after a hell of a bargain, but having it shipped by FedEx,UPS or whoever is not a very good solution for such type of item. What to do if your projector has some pb (dead pixels,...)? So I thought that I would buy it on my next trip in US, if no other product in the same price category was coming in the meanwhile. I may change my mind.


Who is taking in charge the same kind of shootout for the new generation of 16:9?
 

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I must say that I have not read such detailed and complete reviews in some of the specialty magazines. I shall be looking at the Panasonics.


What is your opinion of the screendoor effect when using the Panasonic? You mentioned this property only in your review of the NEC.


Thank you for your review.


------------------

cai
 

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Quote:
Originally posted by honcho:
I just checked out chapter 2 of the Matrix on my direct view TV. It does not have a green cast to it.
Your direct view set may be off a bit...

I have to agree with clopez, the green cast does exist on my PC monitors & on my calibrated CRT PJ.

AFAIK, this is intentional & present in chapter 2 - Trinity's rooftop escape.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Laudot and Cai,


Actually, it's not surprising to me that an "unknown" projector (at least to this forum) would win. I wanted to look at some projectors that aren't mentioned here (Panasonic and Epson) to see how they compare. In this case, it's probably more of a case of poor marketing by Panasonic than people in this forum.


The specs-manship that goes on in the projector industry is like that in most others. It's up to us consumers to be educated to avoid the questionable. It's also important to have standards for measurements. Yes there is an ANSI lumens standard, but as far as I know, it doesn't say where in a bulb's life it is to be measured (first hour, after 1,000 hours, after 2,000 hours?). There is no standard for measuring contrast. One would be helpful.


Regardless of standards, seeing is believing with projectors. How much black is black enough for you? How blue is your blue?


As for the 711U, there was a slight screen door at 8'. I expect that it would disappear at 10' to 12'. It was not as pronounced as that of the LT156. Also, there is an advantage of getting a projector locally -- service. I would suggest looking at the 711XU if you come to the US.


Honcho


(I'll update the shoot out for the 711U screen door)


 

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Honcho, thanks for your answer. Once more congratulations for your review. I have restarted my negotiation process with the local reseller (cultural phenomenon in Middle East!!!)

BTW, had you any chance to compare Panasonic with the Sanyo XP21 which seems to be quite a subject in this forum?


Have you done your final choice? I mean, have you bought the Panasonic or are you, as I am, still stuck in the old dilemna of waiting for future better products or cost decrease?
 

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Honcho,


You speculate in your post that the Panasonic's brightness spec may have been for a bulb near the end of it's life. I think it's much more likely that the NEC is far under spec. There may be an ANSI standard for measuring brightness, but brightness specs often have little relation to the real light output of a projector. There is also an ANSI standard for contrast measurements, but most people only do full-on full-off measurements nowadays. They are much more forgiving of room effects (like whether you're wearing a white shirt...).


It has been my experience with informal measurements that Panasonics and Epson's are generally very close to spec, as are Sony's and JVC's. I see Panasonic as a bit of a dark horse, they had some *very* impressive stuff at the past Infocomm and the projectors I've seen in person have also put out very nice images. However, they have never really marketed their projectors for HT and they may lack some of the features that HT users want.


Regards,


Kam Fung
 

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Quote:
they may lack some of the features that HT users want.
Which features, specifically?


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--}{: --}{:

: --}{: --}{:
 

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Swarm,


I couldn't say in detail, I didn't spend that much time with the projectors. If you look at Honcho's review you see his positive evaluation of the unit's image quality, but little things like fan noise may be more important to those of us looking to put it in an HT (not that it ever stopped D-ILA owners!). I speculated that there *may* be some features lacking that HT users might like, but that stems from the fact that their projectors have not been specifically designed with HT in mind, not from any specific flaw in the projector. I wrote that comment precisely because I didn't know if there were any such issues and I didn't want anyone to exclude the possibility.


Regards,


Kam Fung
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Swarm,


As for features that HT users might want, I can't think of anything that's missing from the Panasonic 711XU. In fact, it has something that people might want -- two VGA/Component inputs. This would let you connect a component DVD player and a computer (laptop or HTPC) directly to the projector at the same time. One of the VGA inputs is also DVI-compliant.


As for the fan noise, my reference was putting the projector on a conference table and talking over it. In econo mode (1200 lumens), the 711XU was extremely quiet. At 1400 lumens (for the 711U, but the specs are the same for the 1600 lumen 711XU), the Panasonic was noisier but it was still quieter than the InFocus LP530, a projector that some here think is a good HT projector.


Honcho


------------------

Honcho
 

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Honcho,


Did you end up buying the 711XU or are you still looking? Have you demo'd any other PJ's since your last review?


HTC
 
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